Friday, May 25, 2012

Words Are Not Enough

This year I have made progress on several projects, although I haven’t written as much as I intended. As the summer looms, and the inevitability of children rushing through my house all day approaches, I realize I will get even less done each day than I do now.  How can I write more, and write it faster?

Many authors measure their progress in words per day.  This doesn’t seem to work for me.  I need to be a more ‘effective writer.’  

Here’s what I need to work towards:

1.     Plan.  Outline.  Draw a mind map.  Looking ahead can save a lot of looking back and rewriting. 
2.     Separate writing from editing.  Effective writers WRITE, without looking back.  Just get through the first draft, not the first chapter.  Edit through the dross and the good stuff in a second stage.  (This is a biggie for me.)
3.     Write every day, even just a little.   Just one more page keeps the story moving forward.  Over a year, a page a day is a novel’s first draft.  (Reportedly, Stephen King writes even on Christmas Day.  Wow. What discipline.)
4.     Finish what was started.  Don’t let good ideas rest in peace in the file cabinet.  Resurrect them! Complete what was once a passionate and inspirational project.
5.     Set deadlines.  Deadlines demand a finished piece.  (This is one of the many things a critique group is good for.)
6.     Write first. Volunteer last. Instead of structuring free time around, say, school library volunteer work, and squeezing in writing, structure time around writing.  Give up other activities and give in to the dream of writing.  Then a book I write might appear in the library.

Summer, with frequent interruptions (whether children, visitors, or vacations) can be a tough time to be productive.  But if I try, maybe I will make more progress than I expect. 

How do you keep productive?  Any tips?


  1. Yes, and I have had a lot of difficulty with #6 this year. I keep volunteering -- which can be a good thing, but it has taken a toll on my productivity. It's time for me to be more productive on the writing front.

  2. Yes, #6 is one of the most important keys to success. You should consider your writing a JOB. Others might not understand, but it's the right thing to do.
    Years ago, I remember saying no to volunteering in a school library because I needed every extra minute of my time. I had three little kids and was working on(ironically enough)an MLS, but graduate school was my job at that time.

  3. I agree about number 6. And when you don't have a full time "job" -- that really is the hardest one to keep. You can make the commitment to write every day, and even if you only get 100 words down, you move forward. But if you let everything else come before writing, and you only get 100 words in every day, it sure will take a long time.

    I am at the end of a major volunteer job and I can't wait. I will now look for volunteer work that has specific hours and specific tasks that I can plan around my writing time.

  4. Judy -- planning around the writing time is key, and what I failed to do this year. I resolve to live by a new system...And I agree Gale, that it is a job -- and without considering it one, it will never become a paying one. And people do not understand, but I wonder if that's largely my fault for not setting out the priority clearly enough.